New Media Nietzsche

On: October 11, 2007
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About Tjerk Timan
During the last couple of years, I have been involved in Industrial Design at the Technical University of Eindhoven, both on the theoretical as well as the physical/practical side, always working on the boarder between the digital and physical. After an internship at Mediamatic, I wanted to get more involved in the digital side of new media. Currently, I am investigating the complex realm of new media [at] the master course New Media, UvA. With a thesis focus now on ‘objects that blog’ within the context of an internet of things, the challenge is to investigate the agency and influence of things. Especially when these things, being digital or physical, are capable of sharing, posting, editing, deleting content. And on who’s account? Within that same line of thought, the digital is often taking itself for granted maybe too much, where often the step towards WHO and HOW data is manipulated is left out of the loop. Taking these things back into the (design) loop is one of my missions, with the statement in mind that the way content is created and consumed has at least as much importance as the technology driving it. Furthermore, I am currently active within the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam. Also, I do some occasional freelance work, where disciplines differ from web-design to workshops to product design.


In an attempt to grasp and theorize all that is happening in the new media landscape, one method can be to project a philosophers’ philosophy onto a new media phenomenon and see what happens.

Amongst the many theories and quotes Nietzsche got famous for, the interesting thing is to look at the context of these quotes in comparison to the context of what is called ‘new media’.
Some obvious ones bear to mind in relation to, for instance, internet and hypertext:

Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon absolute truth.

Besides the question what then can be the absolute truth, we cannot deny that the concept of hypertext has brought some improvement in at least democratizing the truth (or, did it?).
or, on social networking and the participatory web:

insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

Within the growing participation of social-web 2.0 sites, one can see a form of mass-hysteria evolving that now is considered to be ‘normal’, in fact, the more extreme a person’s data body is presented, the better.
or, on the crazy ‘second’ internet bubble Google buying its way into history:

Before the effect one believes in different causes than one does after the effect

Back in the days, everyone saw Google as a respectable company, thus explaining its vast growth. After the mayor shopping spree by this company Microsoft-style, (some) people got fairly suspicious about the trustworthiness and respectfulness of Google.
Even on the hot topic of dusty ancient copyright still used in todays fast streaming web of ideas and content, Nietzsche has a striking comment:

Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory its too good.

In this, case, the memory of the web is maybe too good (in the sense that ‘everything is already done; every good idea is Googable). On the other hand, one might say that Google has a very selective memory, deliberately ‘forgetting’ information (see issue dramaturg post on

But what does this all say? We know that Nietsche got famous for declaring the death of God, his theory of the Ubermensch, and his nihilistic view on man in a post-god era. We also know that philosophies can be misinterpreted.
One of the mayor consequences of a post-god era is that man is solely responsible for the things that matter; for determining good and evil, being responsible for all of his actions.
In history we can see what happened: from mechanical man (Verlichting) to mechanical war (second world war) to a mechanical ‘ideology’ (cold war), where a constant thread made for a pragmatic world view.

Now, when looking at the information age we are in today, we see a rise again of an ‘outside’ force, that we not only can choose, but almost must believe in. We’re shifting towards an ideology of the web. Not in the sense that we see google as god , but more in a sense that this added layer of reality within our daily lives forces us to keep up our data-bodies, have web-presence, be googable and have a twitter-account; to have an ideal outside entity that can define what is good, an what is bad.
We are placing the responsibility of man outside ourselves again, but in a far more complex and rich way. (faith 2.0?)


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